Advertising in the WWW (Wide World of Widgets)

When there’s an article on something in the New York Times, as there was last week on widgets – you know the concept has gone mainstream. I’ve been spending a lot of time recently reading blogs about, thinking about, and most importantly, meeting with entrepreneurs creating endeavors which leverage the ramifications of an increasingly decentralized widgetized web. And the primary focus has been on advertising. How will advertisers play in a world in which widgetized microchunked content proliferates?

Hooman Radfar over at the blog Widgify recently pointed to Universal’s use of a snaggable movie trailer promoting this week’s debut of the film Smokin’ Aces (with the help of his company ClearSpring). When people post this snippet of code on their site, they are in effect standing behind it, creating a validating point that this is content worth watching, and consequently promoting the film in an engaging way that an interruptive advertising type couldn’t do.

With marketers searching for alternative means to reach consumers – even going as far as placing branding ads in airport security bins – Greg Verdino of the Emerging Channels team at Digitas recently cautioned, “Just as the smartest marketers are realizing that interrupting unreceptive consumers is no longer an effective means of spreading brand stories, other backward-looking media and marketing companies seem proud that they’ve found new ways to interrupt… you can’t break through advertising clutter by simply creating even more clutter.”

Interactive online widgets offer a viable alternative for spreading advertising and branding messages which rise above interruptions and facilitate direct consumer interaction with true engagement. Seeing this opportunity, UK-based social networking site Bebo announced just a few weeks ago that they will feature advertiser supported widgets in their widgets gallery in this upcoming year. Another example is that nearly all of the professional sports leagues are starting to embrace widgets to promote their teams and games. Many of the social commerce startups, like ThisNext and MyPickLIst, feature product-based widget apps. And this potential goes beyond just pure commercial advertisements. Consider ChipIn, a web service which allows organizations looking to raise money for causes to do so via an online widget proliferated via social network pages.

I agree with Radfar’s sentiment that “it will take some time for the right models to work themselves out, but with all of the [widget] activity mounting this year is promising to shake up the world of online advertising.”

David Beisel

David Beisel is a co-founder and Partner at NextView Ventures. He has been focused on early stage Internet startups his entire career, both as an entrepreneur and venture capitalist. As an investor in the digital media space, David was most recently a Vice President at Venrock and previously a Principal at Masthead Venture Partners. Prior to becoming a venture capitalist, David co-founded Sombasa Media, an e-mail marketing company best known for its flagship product BargainDog. Sombasa was successfully acquired by where David served as Vice President of Marketing. David holds an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business and an AB in Economics, magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa, from Duke University. He also founded and leads the Boston Innovators Group, an organization which holds quarterly entrepreneur events drawing a thousand attendees.